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A woman has been sentenced to 10 years behind bars for killing a man in the parking lot of an Arlington Burger King in 2022.

A judge on Friday sentenced 48-year-old April Puckett to seven years of imprisonment for second-degree murder and three years for using a firearm in commission of a felony. This was less than the maximum sentence of 13 years that Puckett agreed to when she pleaded guilty in November.

Puckett, who was arrested after a 45-year-old D.C. man was found dead near the Burger King at 3627 Columbia Pike, additionally received an 18-year suspended sentence along with five years of probation, a court clerk told ARLnow.

Security footage from Feb. 24, 2022 showed Puckett and a companion leaving the fast food restaurant around the same time a white GMC Yukon pulled into the parking lot.

Puckett approached the vehicle around 9:10 p.m. and got into the passenger seat, according to a statement of facts. She exited the car about a minute and 30 seconds later.

A day and a half went by before a tow truck arrived to impound the SUV, which had tinted windows and had not moved since it was parked.

“The tow-truck driver noticed what appeared to be a single male occupant slumped over in the driver’s seat,” a statement of facts entered with the guilty plea says.

Police opened the Yukon to find the driver deceased, with gunshot wounds to his neck, chest, lungs and left hand.

He had recently returned home from prison and “had been selling drugs to make ends meet,” the statement says. Puckett and her companion “were both unhoused and known to the Arlington County Police Department as frequent drug users.”

The man was known to carry three guns, but police found only two in his vehicle.

Police arrested both suspects the day after they found the body.

Prosecutors originally charged Puckett with first-degree murder, alleging the homicide was premeditated, but later reduced the charge to second-degree murder.

Puckett’s companion, meanwhile, was initially accused of conspiracy to commit murder but that charge was later dropped.

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Suspect struggling with police officer as off-duty officer stops to help out (courtesy Dave Statter)

A wild incident involving a theft suspect in Pentagon City over the weekend was caught on camera.

It happened around 1:45 p.m. on Saturday, a block away from the Pentagon Centre shopping center. Police say a 31-year-old man stole items from a nearby store and then tried to fight an officer who tried to take him into custody.

An off-duty officer driving by saw the struggle and stopped to help.

More, beloe, from today’s Arlington County Police Department crime report.

ASSAULT ON POLICE, 2024-03090121, 1200 block of S. Hayes Street. At approximately 1:41 p.m. on March 9, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined the male suspect entered the business and allegedly concealed merchandise before exiting the store without payment. A responding officer located the suspect in the area of 15th Street S. and S. Fern Street and attempted to detain him. The suspect resisted arrest, pushed the officer away and attempted to strike them during which an off-duty officer who was driving in the area observed the struggle and exited their vehicle to assist in taking the suspect into custody. The suspect sustained minor injuries and refused medical attention. [The suspect], 31, of No Fixed Address, was arrested and charged with Assault on Police, Petit Larceny and Obstruction of Justice.

The scene was caught on camera and posted to social media by local public safety watcher Dave Statter.

Today’s crime report also details a trio of robberies, in the Pentagon City, Rosslyn, and Courthouse areas.

The first, Saturday night, involved a knife-wielding man stealing money from a tip jar. The second, Sunday morning, involved a man who drove by a woman in a parking lot and stole her phone out of her hand. The third, Sunday night, involved a theft of cigarettes from a store by a pair of robbers, one of whom reportedly had a gun.

More from ACPD:

ROBBERY, 2024-03090186, 1000 block of S. Hayes Street. At approximately 7:02 p.m. on March 9, police were dispatched to the report of an armed robbery. Upon arrival, it was determined the male suspect entered the business, approached an employee at the counter and demanded cash. When the employee refused, the suspect brandished a knife and stole money from a tip jar before leaving the scene on foot. No injuries were reported. A lookout was broadcast and responding officers canvassed the area for the suspect yielding negative results. The suspect is described as a Black male, approximately 40-50 years old, 5’10”-6’0” wearing all dark clothing. The investigation is ongoing.

ROBBERY, 2024-03100095, 1100 block of Arlington Boulevard. At approximately 11:03 a.m. on March 10, police were dispatched to the report of a robbery by force. Upon arrival, it was determined a dispute ensued after the male suspect, who was driving in a parking lot, honked at the female victim, who was walking. The suspect then drove next to the victim with his window down and stole her cellphone from her hand before fleeing the scene in his vehicle. No injuries were reported. During the course of the investigation, the cellphone was recovered in the area. The suspect is described as an older white male driving a blue sedan. The investigation is ongoing.

ROBBERY, 2024-03110001, 1800 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 11:56 p.m. on March 10, police were dispatched to the report of a brandishing. Upon arrival, it was determined the two male suspects entered the business, selected merchandise, approached the counter and asked for cigarettes to be added to the transaction. A verbal dispute between the employee and suspects ensued during which the suspects attempted to steal the cigarettes before exiting the store. The employee confronted the suspects outside the business during which one suspect brandished a firearm before both suspects entered a silver sedan and fled the scene. No injuries were reported. The suspects are described as white males, approximately 5’6”-5’7”, 130-180 pounds with black or brown hair. The investigation is ongoing.

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Vehicle with windows smashed north of Courthouse (photo courtesy Rebecca M.)

(Updated at 11:45 a.m.) A man accused of shattering dozens of Arlington car windows with a BB gun in 2022 is now participating in a court-appointed reform program.

The suspect, who may be responsible for damaging up to 91 parked, unoccupied vehicles, is on the county’s Behavioral Health Docket and returns to a judge in Arlington County District Court on a regular basis, a clerk informed ARLnow.

Arlington County established the Behavioral Health Docket in 2019 to divert people with mental health issues into treatment instead of jail. It waives jail time for eligible participants if they agree to an intensive care program supervised by a judge. Today, it serves just under 15 people.

Participants typically have a high risk of reoffending but were charged with crimes that come with little prison time, including vandalism, which typically comes with no more than a year of prison time or a $2,500 fine, or both, sources familiar with the program say.

The Dept. of Human Services, probation officers, prosecutors and judges all have a say in how the docket functions, according to Chief Public Defender Brad Haywood.

“We all have different ideas of how the legal system should work, probably, but somehow we found a program that we can all stand behind,” he said this week in a budget hearing. “It’s only a few years old, but we’re already seeing so many really inspiring success stories. Every day, every week, every month year, we are increasing trust in each other and it’s just great. Not only is it working just on that level, but there’s always interest in scaling up.”

Court records related to this particular suspect’s program and his alleged crimes are not publicly available. However, online Virginia Judiciary records indicate that the Maryland man was arrested a second time in July 2023 on 10 counts of destruction of property and nine counts of petty larceny.

The court clerk indicated that the suspect will likely be in his current program for a substantial stretch of time.

A wave of vandalism swept over much of Arlington starting sometime around the evening of Oct. 20, 2022. Over several bewildering days, numerous car owners, many concentrated in Clarendon and Ballston, discovered their windows shattered by BBs.

Video showing some of the damaged vehicles suggests that at least one car was damaged twice.

“No car owner has… reported anything stolen,” says the description of the video, which was shot during the week of vandalism incidents and posted on YouTube by local resident David Cheek. “One car owner told me their car was damaged 2 days ago then again last night. Owner said her car will have to be parked in a garage from now on.”

Police identified a suspect and pulled him over on Oct. 27, 2022. They said they found a BB gun inside his vehicle and arrested him.

Press releases about the vandalism did not provide a possible motive. Prior to the suspect’s 2022 arrest, court records did not report any criminal charges against him in Arlington.

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Police looking for evidence where shots were fired along S. Wakefield Street in Barcroft (file photo)

(Updated 5:32 p.m.) A man accused of shooting wildly at law enforcement following a destructive, high-speed chase through Arlington and Fairfax County accepted a plea bargain on Wednesday.

Ricardo Singleton, 29, admitted in Arlington Circuit Court to firing a gun from his car while fleeing authorities — a pursuit that prosecutors claim ended after a gunfight in Fairfax County.

Singleton’s plea calls for him to spend no more than two years behind bars in exchange for pleading guilty to felony eluding and shooting a firearm from a vehicle. The 17 months he has already spent in jail following his Oct. 6, 2022 arrest would apply toward his total time behind bars.

Virginia sentencing ranges are between one and five years of imprisonment for felony eluding and one to 10 years in prison for shooting from a vehicle. Both crimes also come with an alternative penalty of one year behind bars or a $2,500 fine, or both.

However, the sentencing guidelines — a recommendation set by the Virginia Sentencing Commission based on factors such as criminal history — are more lenient in this case, Singleton’s attorney, Adam Krischer, said in an email. Singleton’s sentencing guidelines are between one day and six months of imprisonment.

There is no agreement regarding suspended time, the amount of time Singleton would serve if he violated the terms of his release. His sentencing is set for May 3.

Although Singleton may only have up to seven more months behind bars in Arlington, he still faces charges in Fairfax County. He is scheduled to appear for a four-day trial beginning on May 20 for several alleged crimes, including reportedly opening fire on officers in a foot pursuit at the intersection of Route 50 and Graham Road.

In Fairfax, Singleton faces two counts of assault of a law enforcement officer, one count of attempted maiming and one count of using a firearm in commission of a felony.

Singleton’s confrontations with law enforcement began many hours before his eventual arrest, according to a timeline of events compiled by the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.

A sheriff’s deputy approached the suspect after he reportedly made an illegal U-turn outside the Arlington County courthouse around 8:45 a.m. The timeline describes Singleton then pointing a firearm at the ceiling of his vehicle before speeding away, disregarding orders to stop and striking another vehicle. That evening, police spotted the suspect and pursued him through Arlington — a chase during which Singleton, by his own admission, fired multiple shots from his driver’s side window.

Law enforcement caught up to the suspect along Route 50 in Fairfax County after he reportedly struck so many vehicles, authorities were still tallying up the number when they hosted a press briefing several hours later.

Bystander footage released by the Fairfax County Police Department shows a man running out of a vehicle and turning backwards with a gun as police pursue him. The muzzle flashes and gunshots can be heard.

A Fairfax officer returned fire and was legally justified in doing so, a use-of-force review found.

Singleton was arrested after his gun reportedly jammed.

The suspect originally faced a slew of charges for his actions in Arlington: three counts of assault on law enforcement, two counts of eluding police, brandishing, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, reckless handling, endangerment and damage exceeding $1,000.

A judge dismissed most of these allegations after not finding probable cause, sources previously told ARLnow. The Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office altered Singleton’s charges in response to this ruling and a grand jury returned an indictment in December.

Prior to the plea bargain, Singleton faced an additional charge of shooting a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school. Prosecutors dropped this charge as a condition of the agreement.

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Arlington police officers (staff photo by James Jarvis)

A new program diverting teens from the criminal justice system has seen 27 referrals for a variety of criminal offenses, largely related to theft, assault and drug and alcohol violations.

Shoplifting and physical disagreements with peers are exactly the kinds of crimes Devanshi Patel expects to see go through the program, run by the nonprofit she leads called the Center for Youth and Family Advocacy (CYFA).

The organization is one of two in Arlington County attempting to keep juveniles out of the criminal-legal system — the other being Restorative Arlington. Leaders of both say they offer an alternative to the traditional, adversarial court process that takes into account the needs of victims of crimes as well as the youth who commit them.

“When a kid has a relational issue, whether it’s with a peer or family member, there are better ways to help that kid understand what is going on or why they’ve engaged in that type of response or where their actions come from… so they don’t make that same decision again in the future,” says Patel, who is also a substitute judge in Arlington. “This type of program is different because we’re not using the legal system to provide those resources.”

Between August and October, CYFA reports ACPD responded to 71 incidents of youth-based harm, of which 24 involved offense types not eligible for referral to CYFA and another 21 that were not referred. In 13 eligible cases, the victim wished to seek legal redress through the courts.

CYFA received 13 referrals, of which 11 came from ACPD, before the juveniles were charged while two came from the Arlington Juvenile Court Services Unit, after they were charged. Since then, the total number of referrals has gone up to 27, as of this month.

Of the cases CYFA has opened, nine have been closed.

“We’re actually a little surprised at how well it’s gone,” said ACPD Deputy Chief Wayne Vincent, in a recent video CYFA produced.

“Some people may argue, ‘Well, just hold them accountable and send them off to the detention center or have the courts deal with it,'” he continued. “It’s very traumatizing. I think the studies are very clear that you know, the less that we can have a child go through the criminal justice system, at least in the early stages, I think the better for them.”

ACPD arrest numbers for some common youth offenses (by ARLnow)

So far, CYFA has received $100,000 from Arlington County to support this work. For the last few years, the county has involved itself in the creation of programs that use restorative justice principles, such as voluntary conferencing between victims and offenders, to divert young people from the criminal-legal system, before or after they have been charged with a crime.

It stood up Restorative Arlington, now a separate nonprofit, and funneled support to community-based programs, including that of CYFA.

The county says its backseat role allows it to also fund a broader range of “innovative programs that further advance restorative justice.”

Restorative Arlington offers conferencing while CYFA offers both conferencing and a “Youth Peer Court” program, where participants sit down with “peer ambassadors” who take the positions of defense attorney, prosecutor and judge. There are at least one thousand different peer courts across the country but some practitioners say conferencing is truer to the roots of restorative justice than peer courts that borrow the structure of the judicial system.

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Elder Julio Basurto speaks during the County Board recessed meeting in 2021 (via Arlington County)

An Arlington man accused of sexually assaulting women he lured into his car in Clarendon has been found guilty on all counts.

Julio Basurto was convicted on four criminal counts after a three-day trial, the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church announced Wednesday evening.

The prosecutor’s office noted that Basurto recorded video of one of his attacks.

Police said Basurto would drive up to Clarendon’s nightlife district early in the morning and offer women a ride, then would sexually assault the victim in his car. Detectives are still seeking potential victims from multiple other possible incidents ranging from September 2021 to September 2022.

Basurto was arrested last June, after an assault that occurred on May 21, 2023.

Prior to his arrest, Basurto was frequently quoted by local news outlets as a community activist, often going by his church title, “Elder Julio Basurto.” He was outspoken on local issues from drug overdoses in schools to conditions in affordable apartment complexes.

Basurto also previously worked as an interpreter, including for Arlington Public Schools, according to his LinkedIn profile. He served on an APS advisory committee, received an award from a prominent local nonprofit for his tenant advocacy, and was highlighted by a County Board member on his website’s endorsements page.

More on the trial and conviction, below, from a press release.

Today, following three days of trial and about two hours of deliberation, a jury found Julio Basurto guilty on all charges brought by this office. Mr. Basurto was convicted of two counts of abduction with intent to defile, one count of object of sexual penetration, and one count of forcible sodomy.

These charges stemmed from two separate incidents in the Clarendon area, one on October 10, 2021, and another on May 21, 2023, in which he lured two different women into his car, and sexually assaulted each of them.

During the investigation, it came to light that Mr. Basurto recorded one of the sexual assaults and saved the video on his mobile phone in a file that was double encrypted.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Nassir Aboreden successfully tried the case and obtained the guilty verdicts from the jury. Our Victim Witness team provided essential support and helped the victims navigate the legal system. The Office is grateful to the ACPD, who doggedly investigated this case since the first reported instance, in 2021, and the Special Victims Unit detectives for their care in preparing the case and sensitivity toward the victims.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti said, “I’m grateful the jury came to the right verdict here. It’s hard to say that this is justice because the victims will always have to live with the trauma they have endured in these violent sexual assaults – but this is a win for public safety, so no woman trying to enjoy a night out with her friends has to fear that Mr. Basurto will do the same to them.”

Sadly, based on information obtained during the criminal investigation, detectives believe there may be additional incidents that occurred during the early morning hours on the following dates:

  • September 20, 2021
  • October 3, 2021
  • October 14, 2021
  • September 4, 2022

We urge anyone who may have experienced a similar incident or who has had past inappropriate encounters with Mr. Basurto to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s tip line at 703-228-4180 or [email protected]. Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Jo DeVoe contributed to this report

Police looking for evidence where shots were fired along S. Wakefield Street in Barcroft (staff photo)

A grand jury has returned an indictment for a man on felony charges in connection to a wild police chase in October 2022.

The indictment against Ricardo Singleton, returned last Monday, included charges for eluding police and shooting a firearm from a vehicle within 1,000 feet of a school. They follow a bizarre crime spree for which Singleton was arrested on Oct. 6, 2022.

The man allegedly made a U-turn in front of Arlington County police headquarters in Courthouse and brandished a gun at a sheriff’s deputy, later fleeing and striking a parked car. That evening, police chased the suspect vehicle through Arlington — where shots were fired along a residential street — and into Fairfax County. Singleton was arrested after his gun reportedly jammed.

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano subsequent compiled a detailed timeline of the events. His use-of-force review found that a Fairfax officer fired shots at Singleton, but the officer acted properly in doing so.

Singleton had a court hearing in Fairfax General District Court this March. He was charged with three counts of attempted maiming of law enforcement officers and one count of using a firearm in the commission of a felony.

The court certified all these charges to Fairfax County Circuit Court. His trial in Fairfax is set to begin on May 20, 2024, according to Laura Birnbaum, the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Deputy Chief of Staff.

On Oct. 24, Singleton had a hearing in Arlington General District Court on a slew of charges: three counts of assault on law enforcement, two counts of eluding police, brandishing, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, reckless handling, endangerment and damage exceeding $1,000.

The Arlington court dismissed most of the charges after not finding probable cause, the standard of proof required for an indictment, sources say. To convict Singleton, the Commonwealth’s Attorney would have to meet a higher standard of proof, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” that he committed the crimes.

A felony eluding charge, meanwhile, was certified to Arlington County Circuit Court.

Last week, Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti presented the court with new felony charges — including shooting a gun from a vehicle, near a school — for which she says there is stronger evidence.

Felony charges against Ricardo Singleton (via Virginia Courts Case Information)

If he is found guilty, Singleton could face 2-10 years in prison for shooting a weapon within 1,000 feet of a school and 1-10 years for shooting a weapon from a car, according to state sentencing guidelines. The eluding police charges come with a jail sentence between 1-5 years.

On most of the charges — save for the one involving shots fired near a school — a jury or the court can opt for fewer than 12 months in jail, tacking on a $2,500 fine.

His next court appearance is today (Monday).

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Falls Church carjacking suspect (courtesy City of Falls Church)

The case involving the man who allegedly went on a carjacking and assault spree through Falls Church and Arlington is moving forward.

Last week — eight months after his arrest — he was identified as Garrett Reeves, of Lorton, according to Susan Finarelli, a public information officer for the City of Falls Church Police Department.

He has been charged with carjacking, malicious wounding, destruction of property with intent and felonious charges of failure to stop at an accident and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, per court records. He has hearings for these charges on Jan. 4 and 10, 2024.

Falls Church police arrested Reeves in March. According to police and a surveillance video aired by NBC 4, Reeves struck a pedestrian near the Beyer Volvo dealership and crashed into several cars, while driving a carjacked Jeep.

He fled and allegedly ran to a nearby shopping center, where he attacked a man and stole his car. He drove into Arlington and was reported to have rear-ended a woman driving on Langston Blvd. This stolen car was later found in Fairfax County, police said at the time. Two days later, he allegedly carjacked another car in Falls Church.

Between his arrest and now, however, he has spent most of his time in a state psychiatric facility because he was not deemed fit to stand trial. Statewide, this is an increasingly common finding that has strained state hospitals, the Virginia Mercury reports.

Falls Church police conducted two investigations before obtaining warrants for Reeves’ arrest, Finarelli said. He was arrested on multiple charges, including carjacking, and taken to the Arlington County Detention Facility — where Falls Church arrestees are jailed — though he was uncooperative and did not reveal his name.

“During his first arraignment, the Courts deemed him not mentally competent hence his transfer to the Western State mental hospital,” Finarelli said.

Last Tuesday, the Falls Church police department learned that the man was identified and transferred back to the Arlington County jail. There, Finarelli says, he was served with additional warrants and held in jail without bond.

The Arlington County Police Department is not seeking charges for the hit-and-run in the county — considered a misdemeanor — because Reeves faces felony charges for the hit-and-run and carjacking in Falls Church, ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow.

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A former ABC News producer whose Columbia Pike apartment was raided by the FBI last year has been sentenced.

James Gordon Meek, 53, pleaded guilty in July to transportation and possession of child sexual abuse material. Today he was sentenced to six years in prison, just above the minimum five year sentence for the charges.

The FBI raided Meek’s apartment on Columbia Pike in April 2022, as photos first published by ARLnow — taken by local resident John Antonelli — showed. Speculation about the raid swirled in the ensuing months, in part due to Meek’s job as a prominent producer for ABC News and his former role in counter-terrorism for the House Committee on Homeland Security.

More on the sentencing, below, from a U.S. Dept. of Justice press release.

An Arlington man was sentenced today to 72 months in prison for transportation and possession of child sexual abuse material.

According to court documents, while visiting South Carolina in February 2020, James Gordon Meek, 53, used an online messaging platform on his iPhone to send and receive images and videos depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, and to discuss his sexual interest in children. Some of the images and videos depicted prepubescent minors and minors under the age of 12, including an infant being raped. Meek brought the iPhone containing the child sexual abuse material back with him when he returned to Virginia. Additionally, Meek possessed multiple electronic devices containing images and videos of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division, made the announcement after sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Zoe Bedell and Trial Attorney Whitney Kramer for the Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section prosecuted the case.

This case was investigated by the FBI Washington Field Office’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force. The task force is composed of FBI agents, along with other federal agents and detectives from northern Virginia and the District of Columbia. The task force is charged with investigating and bringing federal charges against individuals engaged in the exploitation of children and those engaged in human trafficking. Valuable assistance was provided by the Arlington County Police Department.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.

The Arlington County Courthouse and Detention Center facilities are pictured in 2019 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Residents should be on the lookout for a postcard from the Arlington County Circuit Court about jury duty.

This month, the court will be mailing questionnaires to about 35,000 residents randomly selected from registered voter rolls as part of its annual jury selection process. The questionnaires will be used to determine who is eligible for jury duty next year.

The average length of a trial is 1-2 days, but trials may last longer, per a press release.

If an individual does not receive a questionnaire, “there is nothing further to do,” it says.

Residents are instructed to submit a form online — or call 703‑228‑3123 to receive a mailed paper copy if they do not have computer access — within 10 days of receiving the postcard.

The county asks individuals who no longer live in Arlington, but receive the postcard, to complete the form so they can be disqualified.

People who qualify for jury duty will receive a summons to appear in the mail next year.

Jurors must be available between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. during their period of service.

According to the release, jurors are set to receive “$50 each day they report for reimbursement of expenses” — which looks to be up $20 from last year.

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In 1922, Clarendon almost became a town.

The rallying cry was the neighborhood slogan, “Do it for Clarendon,” says local historian Sean Denniston.

Arlington County, formerly within the borders of what was then called Alexandria County, got its name in 1920, to avoid confusion with the City of Alexandria. Twenty years prior, however, residents already saw Clarendon as its own town.

Proud residents, unified by the “Do it for Clarendon” spirit, built their own town hall, volunteer fire department and schools, and created their own phone book, Denniston told people who came to his lecture on this little-known piece of Arlington history. He gave the talk on Tuesday at Arlington Central Library in Virginia Square.

By 1922, the population swelled to around 2,500 people, mostly comprised of white families, he said. (As noted by the Gazette Leader, “Restrictive covenants on the original land sales ensured that Clarendon at the time was an all-white community.”)

In addition to standing up their own municipal services, local residents formed the Clarendon Civic Association — with membership restricted to adult men — and formed audit and public order committees.

These neighborhood leaders began to chafe against what they considered to be a non-cooperative and unhelpful government, Denniston said. They criticized the county for being unable to provide for the good of the community, citing the lack of robust water and sewage systems and poor roads.

“Bennett v. Garrett was really a fight between Clarendon and county interests — and to put it nicely, majority interests,” Denniston said. “Really, minority interests were not given much mind except to bolster one or other arguments.”

Incorporating as a town was a way to break free from this. They proposed boundaries stretching from N. Veitch Street to N. Quincy Street, an area of about 702 acres, and housing the town hall in what is today Northside Social on Wilson Blvd.

“Feeling that they’d been doing their own show for a long time, trying to become their own town seemed like a logical next step,” Denniston said. “[Clarendon residents] feared that the district would get autocratic control, and that they’d have no stake in future planning.”

The Clarendonians took their case to court, where they argued that Clarendon was separate and distinct from other neighborhoods in Arlington. They said the neighborhood could afford to be self-sufficient and the majority of residents supported incorporating as a town.

When the local courts struck down their case, they appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court.

In Bennett v. Garrett, the state ruled against the Clarendon residents. The court said forming an independent municipality would not promote the general good. This case set forth the precedent Arlington would not be subdivided in any way because it is “continuous, contiguous and homogeneous.”

That legacy can be felt today, in Arlington’s distinct communities and “urban villages” making up the nation’s smallest self-governing county.

Denniston mused that, while Clarendon’s secession attempt failed, the saga may have galvanized an imperfect understanding of how Arlington is, or is not, homogeneous.

“In no danger of new towns, is [Arlington’s] county structure, cost of living and changing demographics excluding ethnic and economic voices?” Denniston asked. “While the town of Clarendon and county elites weren’t worried about such things, we do care about ‘One Arlington.'”

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